A few months into hurricane season and the Atlantic basin is prepping for some of the worst natural disasters in recent history. According to Dr. Phil Klotzbach at Colorado State University (CSU), the team forecasts 20 named storms this year, to include nine hurricanes. Four hurricanes with the potential to be categorized as major hurricanes. In a typical year, the team projects 12 hurricanes, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).
In the face of daunting statistics that show hurricane season in Florida and the Caribbean getting worse year over year, insurance companies can expect increased insurance claims during the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season and that means more room for error that can impact the livelihoods of Florida consumers. When a claim is denied, that can leave homeowners feeling hopeless, or even worse, losing everything they’ve worked hard to achieve for their families. That’s when you turn to a hurricane lawyer, Florida homeowner rights advocate, who knows how to fight for compensation for people who have insurance coverage on their homes and sustain wind damage, or have flood insurance and sustain water damage.
Why hire a Florida hurricane claim attorney?
Hurricanes are prevalent in Florida during the Atlantic hurricane season between June and November. During this time and before, Floridians prepare by making home pre-season home repairs and ensuring they have supplies like a week’s worth of water, dried food, batteries, flashlights and generators, as part of an essential toolkit to help them fare through complications that could arise due to hurricanes, tornadoes and other weather events that are likely to occur during Atlantic Basin hurricane season.
The III reports in 2020, hurricane season began in a month early in May with the formation of tropical storm Arthur. This is the sixth year in a row that Floridians have seen the season come on with an early start. As of today, August 3, there have been nine storms named. Two of them, Hannah and Isaias, were upgraded to hurricanes. In addition to an early start, Florida has seen several devastating hurricanes in recent years including Irma and Michael in 2019 and 2018, respectively. Both make the top ten list of most intense storms in Florida history. With the record-breaking years of recent years still the topic of legislation and development in many Florida districts, Floridians wonder what’s in store for 2020 as they check their insurance policies.
Types of hurricane insurance in Florida
Luckily, all homeowners in Florida are required to have homeowner’s insurance and the most susceptible flood zones require special insurance, called flood insurance, that is designed to ensure no Florida homeowners take stormwater damage that their insurance companies can’t or won’t fix in good faith. However, it’s not a perfect system and sometimes homeowners find themselves in a position needing a Florida hurricane insurance claim attorney to receive compensation for their covered weather-related damages.
There are two types of homeowners insurance that Florida homeowners can purchase that support hurricane damage claims. These are:
- Florida windstorm insurance
- Florida flood insurance
Florida windstorm insurance
As with many East Coast states, Florida law requires insurers to extend hurricane-related insurance coverage to all homeowners. This means all homeowner’s insurance companies can take hurricane damage claims, but they may not all be accepted. The type of insurance, which is included in all homeowner’s insurance plans, is called Florida windstorm insurance and only covers claims for policyholders who have hurricane damage claims related to wind damage.
All property insurers in Florida are required to extend coverage to damage caused by winds related to any storm that has been categorized as a hurricane by the National Weather Service. Most policies include a hurricane deductible that’s separate and apart from the deductible on other claims. Insurers are encouraged to include discounts for people to make certain upgrades to their home that make it more resistant to wind damage.
The insurance broadly referred to as “hurricane coverage” covers applicable loss or damage to property that is sustained as a result of high winds from a hurricane. To an extent, homeowners are covered against hurricanes when they receive windstorm coverage, because if the wind damages the exterior of a home during a hurricane, allowing water to get into the home, the water damage is covered since the wind damage had to occur for the water damage to happen.
Florida law created Citizens Property Insurance Corporation as a safety net to ensure that anyone can get home coverage and benefit from laws that require insurers to cover applicable hurricane damage when an insurance claim is submitted. Most Florida homeowners have their homes insured by Citizens, today.
Florida Flood Insurance
That said, windstorm damage coverage, alone, doesn’t cover all kinds of water damage your property can sustain during a hurricane. That’s why some people have to have separate coverage called flood insurance.
Flood insurance covers flooding that damages items or causes losses within the home during a qualifying event. In a hurricane, flood insurance could cover instances of flooding that wouldn’t otherwise be covered under the state’s legal definitions of windstorm coverage. One example is flooding that occurs as a result of a storm surge. When sea levels rise quickly because of hurricane conditions, a storm surge has occurred and anyone living near a large body of water is at risk of experiencing this kind of flooding.
This is not as big of an issue for inland areas of the state like Orlando, but coastal cities like Miami are more likely to be at risk. For this reason, Florida breaks its districts into flood zones that are labeled based on risk. Certain zones require flood insurance due to high levels of risk, but many do not. Any zones labeled with a V or an A are at the highest risk and require flood insurance.
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When should I hire a hurricane lawyer in Florida?
When your home has sustained massive damage from a hurricane, you spend a lot of time talking with professionals. Your insurance company, the hotel staff where you have to spend your time, possibly your realtor if you are interested in moving into a new property sooner than later. The list seems to go on and on, so it may not come to mind to call your attorney.
However, if you find your claim has been denied, your attorney should be the first call you make. Signs that it’s time to call your hurricane claim attorney include hearing the phrase, “No, your insurance doesn’t cover that,” or other key actions that should alert a red flag like:
- False or misleading statements by the insurance representative
- A settlement offer considerably less than what’s needed to fix the property damage
- Longer than normal processing times for claims with little communication
- Ultimatums and conditions applied to settlement, like signing a document saying you waive the right to supplementary claims
- Insurance agent advises against contacting an attorney or claims adjuster
These could be signs of insurance error or malpractice, and a hurricane lawyer, Florida, can help you get the settlement you need to fix your home.
What should I look for in a hurricane claim attorney?
Florida hurricane claim attorneys should have the following skills:
- Teamwork: Strong leadership skills coupled with the ability to work as part of a team on your behalf
- Self-starting: Someone who has the drive and initiative to succeed where other attorneys might give up your case if they hit a wall with the insurance companies.
- Smart problem solving: Coming to a settlement requires careful negotiation skills and the ability to think critically and strategically under pressure.
- Written and verbal communication: Responding to emails and letters with diplomacy and authority.
- Knowledge of Florida laws: Your Florida hurricane claims attorney should be knowledgeable of changing laws and regulations regarding flood zones and hurricane insurance and coverage.
How to hire a hurricane lawyer Florida
If you’re thinking about hiring a Florida hurricane claims lawyer, you can do so in these steps:
- Start with research
- Understand the importance of specialization
- Interview the attorneys
- Ask for examples of successful cases similar to yours
- Plan for fees, costs and payment arrangements
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Step 1: Start with research
There are many attorneys in Florida who specialize in areas of insurance and property damage. To narrow down your choices, you can start with a quick Google search of local attorneys who work on behalf of clients for insurance companies. Make a list or a spreadsheet as you review the options, jotting down the names of attorneys that you believe make the most sense for your case. You can also inquire with friends and family to get recommendations. Many hurricane lawyers even offer free case evaluations.
Step 2: Understand the importance of specialization
Once you have created a list of potential attorneys you’d like to work with, you can drill the research down even further to truly understand their area of specialization. While they may have tried cases against insurance companies, ensure the lawyers who make your shortlist have worked specifically with hurricane claims. Not only will these attorneys be more knowledgeable, but they will also have better connections to get the job done right the first time.
Step 3: Interview the attorneys
Next, schedule interviews with a handful of law offices/attorneys that made your shortlist. When you interview your potential attorney, look for skills including how they communicate, how they talk about clients and cases and how well-versed they are when they speak on the hurricane insurance specialty.
Step 4: Ask for examples of successful cases similar to yours
When you ask for examples of cases similar to yours, your attorney should be able to rattle off a couple of examples. This shows they have the practical knowledge to take your case to court.
Step 5: Plan for fees, costs and payment arrangements
At the end of the interview, if you are satisfied with the attorney, talk about finances. The average cost of an attorney is $200-$400 per hour. Depending how many attorneys spend how many hours working on your case, it can add up fast. Talk to your attorney on the front end about how you can pay for their services. There may be an option to make payment arrangements that are flexible for you in your time of need.
FAQ: Florida hurricane claim attorneys
Below are some frequently asked questions about hurricane lawyers in Florida:
Q: Am I supposed to talk to my insurance company once I hire an attorney?
A: You can. Unless your attorney advises you otherwise, there’s no reason to assume you shouldn’t stay in touch with your insurance company throughout the claims process.
Q: Can my family lawyer handle this?
A: A family lawyer who works on things like wills and estates, power of attorney, or who otherwise represents your financial interests, may not be the best choice because it’s important to hire an attorney that specializes in Florida hurricane law.
Q: What other ways can I handle a hurricane insurance dispute?
Three additional methods are mediation, arbitration and appraisal. Mediation occurs when both parties voluntarily decide to negotiate the claim and come to an agreement. Arbitration is a more formal process than mediation that results in a settlement. Finally, an appraisal helps the consumer understand the value of losses and may result in a larger settlement, but it can also draw out the process and be more expensive.
Hurricane lawyer Florida: Support for your home and business
If you live in the state of Florida, you may need a hurricane lawyer at some point in your life, whether dealing with a mistake or bad faith insurance company. We hope you never incur losses due to a natural disaster, but if you lose your home, or it gets significantly damaged in a hurricane, and you are having trouble getting the value you believe you are owed for your claim, it’s past time to call the experts at the law firm of Florin|Roebig. Contact us today for a free consultation to help with all of your hurricane needs this Atlantic Basin hurricane season.